Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston Celtics: Breaking Down the Rematch
On Thursday night, the Los Angeles Lakers will visit the Boston Celtics in their final of two regular season matchups.
A rematch of last year's NBA Finals, both teams are once again contending for the championship this year.
Less than two weeks ago, the Celtics went into LA and knocked the Lakers around, winning by 13. Now the Lakers will look to return the favor and embarrass Boston in front of their own fans.
This slideshow includes 10 storylines and specific player matchups to watch during the game.
The Celtics' Injury Bug
The Celtics will be down quite a few men Thursday night, especially down low.
Shaquille O'Neal will miss his fourth game in a row because of a sore Achilles, and backup center Semih Erden will also not play.
Delonte West and Jermaine O'Neal will also miss the game as they continue to recover from their own injuries.
The good news for the Celtics is that even though he missed practice on Wednesday, all signs point towards Paul Pierce playing through the pain on Thursday.
With the Celtics missing so many crucial parts of their team, the Lakers have a good chance to take advantage of a short bench.
The Lakers' Recent Hot Streak at TD Garden
The Lakers have been very good at playing in TD Garden during the regular season, winning four of the past five.
This will be crucial for a Lakers team who will want to gain some confidence playing in Boston, in case they return there for the Finals again.
Last year, the Lakers only went 1-2 at the Garden during the Finals and may have lost the entire championship had they not been the home team for Game 7.
Ray Allen Attempts To Break Reggie Miller's 3-Point Record
Ray Allen currently sits just two three-pointers away from breaking Reggie Miller's career three-pointers made record.
Allen currently sits at 2,559 three-pointers made, just one short of Miller's 2,560.
Allen is very excited to be able to potentially break the record in front of his home fans in what should be a very emotional moment.
Carmelo Anthony Trade Rumors
The trade talks surrounding Carmelo Anthony have been bubbling up to a new high the past few days, with the most recent talks of him going to Los Angeles.
Most of the talks of a Lakers-Nuggets trade involve Anthony being swapped with Andrew Bynum. This would obviously play a big role on the Lakers' chances of repeating as champions moving forward.
If Anthony were to not go to the Lakers, it seems his second most likely destination may be the New York Knicks, a competitor in the Eastern Conference with the Celtics. If Anthony were to be traded to the Knicks, they would instantly become one of the biggest threats to overthrow the Celtics as Eastern Conference Champions.
Phil Jackson vs. Kevin Garnett
Thursday's game will be the first time that these two teams will meet since Phil Jackson called out Kevin Garnett for his dirty play on the court.
This will obviously fuel some on-court tension between these two teams, as if there is not enough already.
Something tells me Garnett is not going to tone down his intensity because Phil Jackson doesn't like the way he plays and if anything, I would say it may lead to some skirmishes during the game.
It's Going To Be a Tight One
The last two times these teams met in Massachusetts during the regular season, they finished the game separated by only one point. Both times the Lakers were the team walking out victorious.
Although this game is just another game in an 82 game season on paper, whenever these teams meet, there is a playoff-like atmosphere and the players give their all every possession.
This makes for great basketball and close games and Thursday's game is sure to not disappoint.
Celtics Big Men
The Celtics may be down a few big men, as alluded to earlier, but the ones that are healthy enough to play will be up for a physical battle down low.
Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Glen Davis will be patrolling the paint for the Celtics and will match up against Andrew Bynum and Pau Gasol for the Lakers.
Although both teams have great shooters who can score from the outside, it seems likely that the game will be won down low on offensive rebounds and hard fouls.
When watching the game, be sure to keep a close eye on the big men as they jostle for position and rebounds.
Possibly the most exciting player to watch in the NBA, it is hard to watch a Lakers game and not find yourself marveling over the skills Bryant possess.
Bryant is averaging 25.4 points per game so far this season, but he seems to always play his best when he goes up against the Celtics. In his last 15 games against the Celtics, he has averaged 29.7 points per game.
Bryant had one of his best games of the year when he played the Celtics in January when he scored 41 points, tying his season high.
It is never too early to look forward to the playoffs and this game has big implications on where both these teams sit in the standings.
The Celtics are currently first in the East, but are only half a game ahead of the Miami Heat.
The Lakers are eight games back in the West and currently sit in third place. They always seem to make a late drive to take over first place and tonight could be the beginning of that.
Game of the Week?
Usually, when a rematch of last year's championship occurs, that is automatically the Game of the Week. But this week, there may be a more enticing game on Sunday.
If the Cavilers lose to the Clippers on Friday, they will have lost 27 games in a row and their next game would be Sunday at home against the Washington Wizards.
It just so happens that the Wizards have lost every single away game this year, a streak that currently stands at 25 games.
It would be the Game of the Week to see these two impressive in their own way records go up against each other with something having to give.
So, even though Thursday's Lakers at Celtics game will be a great battle of top notch basketball, watching some awful basketball on Sunday may be more interesting.
Although the Celtics have been the better team so far this year, I think the Lakers may be able to steal this one from them.
Kobe Bryant has proven that he lives for games like this and he will score over 30 tonight. That, along with a big game from Pau Gasol down low, will push the Lakers over the edge.
As a consolation prize for Celtics fans, Ray Allen will hit at least two three-pointers and become the all time leader in three pointers made.
There will be a few pushes and shoves exchanged after what Phil Jackson said and I wouldn't be surprised to see a few technical fouls given out.
My final score prediction: Lakers 112, Celtics 108